Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

The Big Break: Richard Petty gives Aric Almirola a shot at the big time

  A good guy gets a big break. Aric Almirola gets the nod from Richard Petty and Jack Roush (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Yes, indeed, Aric Almirola is the new year's first good news story on the NASCAR trail, earning a ride with Richard Petty and Ford's Jack Roush. And this could be a team to watch in the opening weeks of the season.

   Almirola has been working for more than three years now to break through big in the Sprint Cup series, and now he's got a ride with a team that was one of the strongest over the final months of 2011.
   Signing Almirola is another example of Roush taking a calculated gamble and offering a big opportunity to someone in which he sees potential. He did that with Mark Martin back when, and with Greg Biffle, and several others, drivers and crewmen alike.
   Indeed, the back story here is interesting -- Almirola's family came to America from Cuba in 1966 on one of the 'freedom flights.'
   "When I was younger, I didn't really appreciate it," Almirola concedes. "I didn't really think it meant anything.
   "But the older I've gotten, and to now pay my own bills, and now that I'm married and possibly thinking about having a family, I understand a lot better what they went through when they gave up everything they had.  They gave up their house, their cars....my grandmother gave up her wedding ring.  They gave everything back to the Cuban government to come to America and to live the American Dream and to create a better life not only for themselves but for their family. 
    "So I get to be living proof of that.  I get to drive a race car for a living; that means a lot to me, coming from where my family has come from, and the sacrifices they have made..."

   Moving to the Ford camp after several years with Chevy's Dale Earnhardt Jr., Almirola, now 27, could prove to be a major early season surprise on the stock car circuit.
   When Petty called, "I was dealt a dilemma -- to stay where I was, where I was comfortable, where I felt I had a home, or to take a chance in the Cup series," Almirola said.

     Aric Almirola and Danica Patrick: teammates last season driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the NASCAR Nationwide tour....and Sprint Cup rivals this season, in a big step up for both (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  "I had a good home there with Junior Motorsports...and it was important for me to have their support to come do this. I talked with Dale and Kelley quite a bit throughout this whole process, and they supported me 100 percent. 
     "He (Earnhardt) gave me a great opportunity...and that's led to this opportunity. Like he said, it gives JRM credibility as a Nationwide team -- that they can take not only Brad (Keselowski) but now me and move them on to a Cup ride."
   Brian Moffitt, who is running the two-car Petty franchise, says the team's brain trust -- Sammy Johns, Todd Parrott and Greg Erwin -- all said yes to Almirola, when the ride came open after AJ Allmendinger left two weeks ago and moved to Roger Penske's Dodge camp.
   Allmendinger left just after sponsor Best Buy decided not to renew with Petty. A new sponsor is still up in the air.
   For Almirola this is the best Cup opportunity he's seen. Joe Gibbs gave him a one-shot run in 2007, and later that season he got picked up as partner with Mark Martin on the short-lived Bobby Ginn operation.  Teresa Earnhardt added him to her DEI roster in 2008, and when she 'merged' with Chip Ganassi for 2009, Almirola kept the ride for the first seven races. James Finch then picked him up for a few races in 2010; Petty ran him in that year's last five races. Last season Almirola ran the full Nationwide tour for Earnhardt.
    "We didn't run as great as we wanted to, but we ran good," Almirola said of his season with Earnhardt. "Eight top-fives, and 17 or 18 top-10s, and we finished fourth in the points. A respectable year."
    Just how well Almirola might do this season isn't clear. However there was the sense midway through 2011 that he was finally starting to hit his stride in this sport. Down the stretch last fall Allmendinger and Erwin, his crew chief, showed strength too, so the burden may be on Almirola to keep up the run, even though it will be only his first full year as a Cup driver.
   "Greg Erwin is among the best crew chiefs, so I don't really see any major reasons why we shouldn't be competitive...though as a rookie I'll probably make my share of mistakes," Almirola says.
   Erwin too may feel he's got something to prove, which he did, really, after being moved midway last season from Greg Biffle's team to Allmendinger's team.


   Aric Almirola: Once a Bud man, now driving for Ford's Richard Petty (Photo: Autostock)

Thanks for the article,

Thanks for the article, however, I have one question. When did Jack Roush become part owner in Richard Petty Motorsports?

Will Aric Almirola win a

Will Aric Almirola win a Sprint Cup Series Race in 2012 & will Danica Patrick win a NASCAR Race in 2012?

Must be a real thrill for

Must be a real thrill for Aric to be driving that famed 43 car, I hope he does well.

Reply to comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com